Thursday, 25 July 2024


HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – It would be easy to report that “The Fish” won this year’s Hidden Valley Lake Association Fishing Derby: Only 24 fish were caught compared to 65 last year.

However, at 6 a.m. Saturday, 42 anglers signed up at the marina to take the opportunity to compete for some great fishing prizes, and to contribute to the HVL Lake Committee's continued effort to improve and increase the fishery in Hidden Valley Lake.

In spite of some initial wind, they eventually enjoyed what turned out to be a beautiful day on our Hidden Valley Lake.

Winner of the prize for the Senior Division’s Heaviest Fish with a 2.54-pound Bass was 19-year-old Chris Gracheff, who also caught a second 1.81-pound bass.

The Junior Division winner, with a 1.80-pound bass, was 12-year-old Jesse Armstrong.

Chris won the 50-50 cash pool prize of $70, and Jesse won a rod, reel, and complete tackle pack valued at about $60.

The Senior Division’s heaviest stringer of bass was caught by 16-year-old Scott Munk. His five fish weighed in at 7.61 pounds.

The Junior Division winner of this category was Jesse Armstrong. Jesse brought in five bass with a total weight of 6.91 pounds. Both won rods, reels, and tackle packs valued at more than $50.

Justin White, 9, caught the only trout in the Derby. Justin’s 0.33-pound trout won him the Junior Division Trout Stringer prize of a rod, reel, and tackle pack valued at $50.

Also catching fish were Jim Munk (five bass), Fernando Carneiro (two bass), Brad Michnevich (two bass), Carter Michnevich (one bass) and Brady Michnevich (one bass).

All anglers received complimentary insulated lunch bags from the HVL Community Services Division.

The oldest angler award was a sassy fishing cap, an Arctic Circle jacket and T-shirt. That prize, once again, went to the venerable, 75-year-old Ron Hughes. The youngest angler award went to the very excited Justin Foell, age 6, who won a SolarBee Cap and youth fishing rig.

The Derby Raffle proved to be a source of big winnings for the anglers, and also for the many volunteers and the approximately 30 guests who were in attendance.

There were more than 45 raffle prizes donated by our generous donors. This year’s prizes also included the fishing awards which were not claimed, and Scott Munk’s prize, which he graciously returned to the fundraising pool.

Also this year there were two special raffle fishing trips: One for halibut, provided by professional sports fishing guide, Mike Martin, and one for bass by professional bass fisherman Chuck Michnevich.

Longtime derby participant, young Katreena Galindo, won the Grand Raffle Prize of a Lakeshore Bait and Tackle Cap, an Arctic Circle jacket, rod, reel and complete tackle pack valued at nearly $200.

The Special Raffle Halibut Trip was won by Duncan Mac Innes. Kyle Triola came away with the Special Bass Trip prize. Each trip is valued at nearly $300.

Because of an efficient Live-Well set up at the Little Beach weigh-in site, we were able to preserve and release all, but one, of the bass to the Lake.

As in previous years, anglers and guests enjoyed the nearly-all-you-can-eat grilled hot dogs and Vicki’s chili lunch.

Proceeds from these lunches, the raffles, our generous cash donations and the derby entrance fees totaled $2,531 – within $100 of last year’s gross revenues.

More than the dollars, however, the derby was for the fun, the happy prize winners and the good sportsmanship.

Even all those lucky fish were happy ... and are still lurking in the lake to test your skills!

Jim Serventi lives in Hidden Valley Lake, and assisted with putting on this year's event.


CLEARLAKE – A Thursday crash on Highway 53 resulted in minor injuries, police reported Friday.

Lt. Mike Hermann of the Clearlake Police Department said the collision involved a Hey, Taxi minivan and another vehicle on Highway 53 at the Olympic Drive turnoff.

He said the minivan, traveling northbound, was turning onto Olympic.

The van driver thought the car coming from the opposite direction was slowing, so the driver pulled out to make the turn, said Hermann.

However, the other car wasn't slowing for a turn and the two vehicles collided, he said.

There were complaints of pain from the vehicles' drivers and passengers but only minor injuries were reported, according to Hermann.

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A Cal Fire helicopter drops water on the fire Thursday evening. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



KELSEYVILLE – Firefighters were able to quickly contain a fire that broke out along Soda Bay Road near Clear Lake State Park Thursday evening.

The wildland fire, about five acres in size, was dispatched at 5:21 p.m., said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Redhawk Palleson.

Several large columns of smoke in the area could be seen from Lakeport and across the lake on the Northshore.

At the height of the incident, Cal Fire – the lead agency on the incident – had one air attack, four air tankers, one helicopter, five engines, two bulldozers and four hand crews of 17 personnel each, Palleson said.



Cal Fire drops retardant on the fire. Pictured from across the lake in Lucerne. Photo by G. Morgan.


Fire protection districts from around the lake – among them nearby Kelseyville – were reported to be on scene, as was the Lake County Road Department.

California Highway Patrol closed the road from the west end of Clear Lake State Park to just east of Clark Drive near the Ferndale Resort while the firefighting effort continued. Power lines also were down in the area.

Windy conditions appeared to be pushing the fire up a hill, through timber and brush, on the west side of Soda Bay Road, in an area where homes are located. The fire made its way to the edge of a vineyard, which acted as a fire break.

Air tankers carried out about one dozen water drops on the fire, although they did not drop retardant on the vineyard.

“It's contained,” Palleson said told Lake County News at around 7 p.m. “Things are looking real good.”



The fire along Soda Bay Road was dispatched by Cal Fire at 5:21 p.m. Thursday. Photo by Dave Hendrick.


At that point, all aircraft had been released, but hand crews and engines were still on scene, he said.

Palleson said the cause of the fire was under investigation.

The cause of the blaze could have been a nearby vehicle fire reported at 5:30 p.m. by the California Highway Patrol.

A gold-colored Cadillac El Dorado was reported on fire in the 6400 block of Soda Bay Road. Officials also had asked Cal Fire's air units to be on the watch for possible suspects in the fire's cause.

CHP reported at 10 p.m. that Soda Bay Road had reopened.

Harold LaBonte contributed to this report.

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A four-engine plane responded to the scene. Photo by G. Morgan.




MIDDLETOWN – Facing budget challenges and the potential for tough times ahead, the Middletown Unified School District Board plans to discuss possible solutions at a meeting next week, where they'll also present the 2008-09 fiscal year budget.

Superintendent Korby Olson said the June 25 board meeting will include consideration of a charge to bus children to school – in light of major increases in fuel costs – and a possible increase in developer fees.

Both proposals will impact the district’s budget, as well as builders and parents, so Olson said the district wants to invite comment and input up front. No action will be taken on the proposals at the meeting.

Initially, the district, which serves about 1,700 students, was looking at having to cut as much as $850,000 from its $14 million budget, based on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed January budget. However, Olson said the May revise reduced necessary cuts by about $200,000.

In March the district gave out 10 layoff notice to teachers, said Olson. Six of those positions ultimately were cut from the district, but three positions were restored, four teachers retired, two resigned and one took a leave of absence.

The budget and its specifics will be presented at the June 25 meeting, he said.

Jim Comstock, who has been on the school board for 18 years, said he's seen similar tough times for the district “but not to this extent.”

“School financing tracks with the California economy,” Comstock said. “It's very cyclic.”

In past years, the district has issued layoff notices, but they've almost always been able to rescind them. “This is a little different.”

In an effort to find ways to address the shortfall, Olson said the district is considering busing fees.

“To my knowledge there's no one in the county charging for transportation right now,” he said of other districts.

However, he added, it's common practice for school districts in other areas.

The district's general fund currently contributes about $300,000 to transportation, he said. “That money could be used another way.”

While there's some reimbursement to the district from the state for transportation costs, it's not enough to cover everything, he said.

Then, there's the issue of rapidly rising gas prices, which Olson said has had a “tremendous” impact on the district's budget.

He had to adjust the district's transportation budget by $20,000 to finish out the year, he said.

The proposed budget for next year includes $222,000 for supplies and materials in its transportation budget, most of which is for fuel, said Olson. That amounts to a 50-percent increase over the 2007-08 budget year.

Fuel prices, said Comstock, have “hit everyone right up side of the head,” and the result is that those costs are eating up more of the district's budget.

“The encroachment into the general fund is becoming significant,” he said.

The district has some options, said Olson, and the board thought it was time to discuss them in order to spare cutting more personnel, materials and resources.

The board will consider the pros and cons of charging between $0.50 and $2 per day for bus service, said Olson. The lower rate would cost parents about $90 a year, the higher rate $360 a year.

“We have discussed for years the potential of having to charge a bus fee,” said Comstock.

Added Olson, “There are lots of question marks about how you do it,” which is why the board wants to discuss it with the community.

Instituting a charge for busing would help cover the rising costs of gas, said Olson; it also would help the district hire another bus driver, which it needs to do in order to maintain the bus runs it currently has.

Another option is to collapse or reduce the number of bus runs, said Olson. However, the district's bus drivers are reporting more ridership as more parents themselves grapple with fuel costs and take advantage of the bus services.

“That's the rub,” said Olson.

He added that the district can't do both options at once – collapsing runs while charging for services.

Comstock said several years ago the district instituted an athletic transportation fee, which helped it buy vans for transporting student athletes to games. There was no outcry over that measure, he added.

While the bus fees could help address more immediate concerns, the proposal to increase developer fees would be done with an eye to needed district upgrades and improvements, said Olson.

Developer fees, which were put in place many years ago, help address the impact on area schools that result from construction, he said. A fee is charged based on the square footage of a new home or commercial building.

Every other year, the state issues a new fee amount districts can seek, said Olson. In January the State Allocation Board adjusted the fees to $2.97 for residential development and $0.47 for commercial development.

Middletown Unified last adjusted its developer fees two years ago, he said, based on a developer fee justification study. The current rate is $2.63 for residential development and $0.42 for commercial development.

The developer fees, he explained, can only be used for school building and construction – not for any other purpose, like meeting budget shortfalls in other areas.

While current district enrollment “is very flat,” Olson said there are improvements the district needs to make for its student levels now.

The district's schools employ a lot of portable buildings, he said. “We're looking to improve our facilities and make them more up-to-date so we can eliminate some of the portables eventually.”

Accepting new fees will allow the district to keep up with inflation, said Olson.

“We haven't had much protest in the prior years when we've had this,” he said, adding that it's unlikely the district can do anything else but raise the fees.

However, he said the district is mindful that builders might not welcome the change, which is why they're being careful to notify the community to give everyone an opportunity to comment.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Middletown Multi-Use building, on Wardlaw Street. The district office can be reached at 987-4100, or visit them online at

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KELSEYVILLE – Sheriff's detectives have closed what one official has termed an “unusually complicated” case involving the stabbing last month of a young Kelseyville man, arresting a suspect Thursday morning.

Nicholas Gene Wood, 30, of Kelseyville was arrested by Lake County Sheriff's Det. Nicole Costanza just before 8:30 a.m. Thursday, according to Chief Deputy James Bauman, the sheriff's office spokesman.

News of the arrest came as a relief to Uriarte's family.

“Today was a very good day,” said his mother, Christine Diener.

Bauman said Wood was booked on felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon and assault resulting in great bodily injury for the May 16 stabbing of 21-year-old Loren Jason Uriarte, also of Kelseyville.

Judge Richard Martin signed the warrant for Wood's arrest, said Bauman. Once the arrest warrant was secured, Wood agreed to voluntarily meet sheriff’s detectives at the Lake County Jail on Thursday morning, where he was arrested and booked. His booking sheet reports he is a store manager.

Bauman said Wood was released from jail later in the day after posting a $25,000 bond.

On the night of the stabbing Uriarte and friends Darrin Sullivan and Josh Ponce had reportedly gone to downtown Kelseyville to pick up Sullivan's father, Dave, according to Diener. When they arrived, they encountered a fight in the street, during which Uriarte was stabbed.

Bauman said the “alcohol-related brawl” took place in front of the Saw Shop Gallery Bistro and involved numerous people – both male and female – many of whom reportedly had dinner at the restaurant earlier in the evening.

Wood's arrest, Bauman said, followed “a lengthy and challenging investigation.”

As Lake County News reported late last month, as many as 11 people were named in the initial investigative report, with four potential victims among them. An argument between some of the parties had apparently led to the fray.

Amidst the complexities of trying to unravel all of the witness statements, Bauman said investigators' primary focus was who stabbed Uriarte.

The young man and his friends went to his grandmother's home following the stabbing, and from there he was transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital, as Diener told Lake County News last month.

He underwent a four-hour surgery on the morning of May 16 so that doctors could repair the internal damage from the knife wound, which was located on the left side of his abdomen, a few inches from his belly button. During surgery doctors removed 6 inches from his small intestine, said Diener.

Uriarte, who was hospitalized for five days afterward, is on the mend, according to his mother. “He's recovering well.”

With the relief of an arrest also comes home of moving on, said Diener. “We're just trying to put this behind us now, really.”

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LAKE COUNTY – A recently released survey shows that tobacco sales to local youth more than doubled over the last year.

The Lake County Tobacco Control Program, a state-funded program of the County of Lake Health Services Department and Lake Family Resource Center, released the results of the May 2008 Youth Purchase Survey.

It found that sales have increased from 8.4 percent in May 2007 to 19 percent in the most recent survey, with 11 stores out of nearly 60 countywide selling tobacco products to teens under the age of 18.

Michael Rupe, the tobacco program's coordinator, said the surveys began in 2005.

Rupe said he found these most recent results surprising, especially since last year's survey shows that usage had gone down over the previous two and a half years.

The surveys are conducted by sending a member of the Adult Tobacco Coalition with Youth Coalition members to selected stores, according to a tobacco control program report.

The teens survey tobacco product signage and product placement to assure that the store is in compliance with current California law. One of them then goes to the check stand, where they attempt to buy tobacco as their partner observes the situation.

If a sale is made, the two teens leave the store and give the cigarettes to the adult advisor. The team members then conduct an immediate evaluation of the sale/non-sale that includes whether identification was requested, whether a sale was made, and the age and gender of the sales clerk.

The program then notifies stores of the results, including the time and date of the sale, with information regarding the clerk training provided through Lake Family Resource Center.

Communities in Lake County with 100-percent compliance, or no sales to youth, included Lakeport, Lower Lake and Middletown, according to the survey results.

Stores in all other Lake County communities sold tobacco products to youth decoys, the program reported. The highest concentration of sales was in the Northshore area, where 36 percent of retailers sold tobacco products to minors. In Clearlake, 23 percent of stores sold to minors.

Rupes estimated that about half of the tobacco sales to youth tracked in the recent survey were for smokeless tobacco, or chew.

“They can do it at school and not get caught,” he said.

Rupe said he has found out a lot about usage trends by talking to young people as a facilitator for My Strength Clubs, groups for young men ages 14 through 18 which meet in Upper Lake and Lower Lake. The groups give young men a safe place to meet and talk about how to be proactive about respecting women. The program also focuses on peer pressure and the consequences of drug use, and has adopted a tobacco use prevention program.

Education will be a key component to turn back the growth of tobacco use, said Rupe.

Gloria Flaherty, executive director of Lake Family Resource Center, said in a written statement that the Tobacco Control Program works diligently to educate tobacco retailers about laws that prevent sales of tobacco products to underage teens.

The program also has created free training and fact sheets for owners and employees that inform current laws, required signage, identification verification and other resources, according to Flaherty.

She said the dramatic increase in sales means the program can't slow down its efforts to stop the sales.

Rupe said a Lake County Tobacco Control Program objective for the 2007-2010 period is to have at least one jurisdiction within the county accept a local tobacco retailer licensing ordinance.

“Right now we don't have any enforcement,” he said.

Tobacco sales to minors have no repercussions for businesses, such as exist for underage alcohol sales, said Rupe. That's despite the fact, as Flaherty pointed out, that selling tobacco to minors is illegal.

A tobacco retailer licensing ordinance would require retailers wanting to sell tobacco to purchase a special license to do so – much like a business license, he said. The license cost would then cover the cost of enforcement.

Rupe said the ordinances – which have been accepted in other California communities – give store owners an immediate incentive to stop selling tobacco to minors, because the laws carry fines, and could result in suspensions of their license to sell tobacco products.

“We have not approached the city of Lakeport or the County of Lake,” Rupe said. “We have approached the city of Clearlake.”

Rupe said program members have met with Clearlake Mayor Curt Giambruno and Council member Judy Thein, who are interested in taking the lead on such an ordinance.

“Tobacco is a gateway drug to just about every type of drug out there,” said Rupe.

That includes leading to alcohol use, said Rupe, a member of Team DUI, which works locally to stop underage drinking.


For more information about the Lake Family Resource Center Tobacco Control Program, or to schedule a presentation, call Rupe at 262-1611.

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From right to left, Lake County Supervisor Rob Brown; Linda Gibson, Redbud Community Hospital vice president of operations; Cameron Reeves, hospital governing board member; JoAline Olson, St. Helena Hospital/Redbud Community Hospital President & CEO; and Dr. David Betat, Kelseyville Creek Clinic physician. Photo by Harold LaBonte.





KELSEYVILLE – On Friday Redbud Community Hospital held a ceremony to break ground on a new $1 million family health center that will replace the Kelsey Creek Clinic early next year.

Lake County Supervisor Rob Brown, Redbud Community Hospital Vice President of Operations Linda Gibson, Hospital Governing Board Member Cameron Reeves and St. Helena Hospital/Redbud Community Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer JoAline Olson and Kelseyville Creek Clinic physician Dr. David Betat donned hard hats and wielded shovels painted gold for the morning groundbreaking ceremony.

The Kelseyville Family Health Center will be located at 5290 State St., about two blocks north of the existing Kelsey Creek Clinic on Church Street, according to hospital spokesman Jeff Davis.

The Kelsey Creek Clinic has been housed in an outdated 1,800-square-feet building since the early 1990s.

The center will offer family medicine, podiatry, diabetic education and behavioral health services in a 2,900-square-foot building with seven patient exams rooms, a new patient education and consultation room, and easier street access with additional parking spaces.

Linda Gibson, Redbud’s senior vice president of operations, said in a written statement that the clinic “is a visible symbol of Redbud Community Hospital’s commitment and investment to make sure Lake County residents have access to superior medical care.”

Kelseyville is one of three community clinics Redbud operates in the county, with approximately 7,200 patients annually, according to Davis.

Clinics also are located in Clearlake and Middletown and Kelseyville. Davis said the three clinics combined had 76,000 patient visits in 2008.

The hospital also has a dental clinic that is located within the Redbud Family Health Center in Clearlake, Davis reported. Additionally, Redbud and St. Helena Hospital jointly operate the Hidden Valley Medical Services clinic, which opened in October 2007.


MIDDLETOWN – An alcohol and drug recovery center suffered a loss early Thursday morning when a fire destroyed one of its buildings.

A small residential unit caught fire at Hilltop Recovery, located in the hills above Middletown in the former McKinley Camp, according to South Lake County Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Dave Miinch.

Lori Carter-Runyon, the center's executive director, did not return a call seeking comment.

The fire broke out about 2:19 a.m. in the guest residence, which was vacant and being remodeled, said Miinch.

“It was fully involved by the time the fire department got there,” he said.

The 45 residents of the center were evacuated to a safe zone, and so no one was in danger or injured, said Miinch.

Fifteen fire personnel from South Lake County Fire Protection District and Cal Fire responded, said Miinch, bringing with them a total of three engines, one water tender, a fire prevention officer and a battalion chief.

“The fire was essentially contained to the structure with a small amount of vegetation that had burned,” he said.

Miinch credited Hilltop Recovery with putting a “tremendous amount” of work into clearing defensible space around its buildings, cutting and raking back vegetation by at least 100 feet, which helped prevent the fire from spreading.

The building was a complete loss, said Miinch, with damage estimated at $20,000.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, said Miinch.

He said the compound was built in the 1940s and used until the 1960s, when it was closed for a long period of time before coming back into use.

It's been a particularly busy fire season for the fire district, said Miinch.

“There has been more fire activity this year, in 2008, than there has ever been in previous years,” he said.

The areas seeing most activity are Cobb and Loch Lomond, he said.

There are many contributing factors, but Miinch said dry conditions don't help.

“We've probably been getting a structure fire every other week in the Cobb area the last month and a half,” he said.

Fires in other parts of the county also have kept firefighters on the run, including a fire along Soda Bay Road Thursday evening and a small fire near Lakeport earlier that afternoon.

Cal Fire also was still on scene at the location of a fire on Highway 20 at Highway 16, where a fire broke out at around 1 p.m. Wednesday, according to Battalion Chief Redhawk Palleson.

That fire – the cause of which also is still under investigation – burned 50 acres along the north side of Highway 20, said Palleson.

He said two engines and a couple of hand crews were still mopping up on Thursday afternoon.

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The raceboats also visited Lakeport last September. File photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – For water sport enthusiasts, Library Park is the place to be this weekend.

Two separate events with much in common – the Vintage and Historic Raceboat Regatta and the Nor Cal Ski Club Races – are scheduled to return to the waterfront in Lakeport this Saturday.

The California Speedboat Association will host the Vintage and Historic Raceboat Regatta at the north end of Library Park.

Admission is free to spectators.

The group hosted the event in Lakeport last September. The regatta has been moved to the June date due to concerns about the lake's water level and quality during the later days of summer, according to Vintage Race Director Bob Silva.

Silva’s group is a member of the California Speedboat Association, which in turn shares a connection to the American Power Boat Association.

Thirty-five vintage race boats are expected to be on display with several participating in a well coordinated series of “flybys” and sample races on a set one-mile course.

Boats will be on display all day. The flyby events are scheduled to take place starting at 11:30 am.

Race boats must be built in 1986 or earlier to qualify as vintage. Boat owners wishing to participate are encouraged to attend and registration will continue on site.

Fees for static display are $25. Other fees and regulations will apply for those wishing to run their boats at speed. Owners wishing more information may contact Bob Silva at 707-964-1711 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




Competitors will race at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour. Photo courtesy of the National Water Ski Racing Association.



Skiers plan fast-paced action

Also on Saturday, the NorCal Ski Club will hold the first of five Lake County high-speed ski events scheduled for 2008.

The racecourse for this event is laid out with two, one-mile straight-aways with a left turn at each end that traverse more than an eighth of a mile.

The skiers will travel as fast as the high performance boats that pull them can, which – depending on conditions – can reach speeds of 110 miles per hour, slowing only to 70 or 80 miles per hour around the turn areas, according to NorCal representative Roger Smith.

Smith, a former deputy sheriff in charge of the Lake County Sheriff's Office Boat Patrol, is a longtime Lake County resident, a lifelong boater and a speed skier himself who plans on participating in several classes of racing this Saturday.

Skiers are eligible to race in several classes, based on age – as young as 9 – along with experience and the type of boat used to pull them, said Smith.

Boat classes range from stock, nearly factory types on through various levels of both inboard and outboard performance levels, eventually leading to the high-speed, high-powered specialty boats capable of reaching 110-mile-per-hour speeds, he explained.

“It’s an extreme sport” – as defined by today’s standards – “and always has been,” said Smith.

It's an extreme sport that over the decades has not been limited to a single gender. Smith added that perhaps Lake County’s most successful speed skier and possibly the best female in the country throughout the 1960’s, Alice Whipple, will compete this weekend.

Saturday’s race schedule begins at 9 a.m. There is no fee to observers.

“Anyone who would like to join in and ski for the first time is welcome to try it at no cost,” said Smith.

Potential skiers should have some basic and obvious skills before attempting to compete.

More information regarding this event and the history of the National Water Ski Racing Association can be found at

The weather forecast for Saturday includes mostly sunny skies with afternoon highs in the low 90s and winds out of the west at 12 miles per hour.

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CLEARLAKE – A teenage girl facing charges for the fatal stabbing of another girl entered a not guilty plea on Friday.

Gabrielle Rachel Varney, 18, appeared in Lake County Superior Court, according to her attorney, Stephen Carter.

“We entered her plea as not guilty,” Carter said.

Varney is charged with murder and a special allegation of using a deadly weapon – in this case a knife – in the death of 17-year-old Heather Valdez of Clearlake.

Valdez died June 5 after Varney allegedly stabbed her during a confrontation that happened when the teens got off the school bus near their homes, as Lake County News has reported. Both girls were juniors at Carlé Continuation High School.

The incident between the teenagers allegedly was the culmination of a months-long feud, Lt. Mike Hermann of Clearlake Police told Lake County News in a previous interview.

Hermann said Varney told police she hadn't intended to stab Valdez. Rather, she told police Valdez had started hitting her.

Varney allegedly had a folding pocket knife with a 4-inch blade that she had been carrying in her hand before the fight started, and which police later recovered at the home of a neighbor where she went to call for help.

An autopsy ruled that Valdez's death resulted from a stab wound to the neck, with the wound appearing consistent with the knife, Hermann said.

Carter said Varney will return to court July 18, at which time the date of her preliminary hearing will be set.

Varney remains in Lake County Jail, with bail set at $500,000, according to jail records.

For Carter, who began representing Varney a week and a half ago and is beginning his own in-depth study of the case, it's too early to know how long the case might take to get to trial.

If Varney is convicted, she'll face 25 years to life for the murder charge, said Carter, plus one year for the special allegation of using a deadly weapon.

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The crash near the Rodman Slough Thursday afternoon is believed to have had alcohol as a contributing factor. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKE COUNTY – No one was seriously injured in two auto collisions that occurred Thursday afternoon.

The first of the two collisions occurred at about 2:15 p.m. It involved two vehicles on the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff about 800 feet south of the Rodman Slough bridge.

A Black 1994 Ford Mustang GT Driven by Dewey Lucas of Laytonville was traveling northbound just five minutes from his destination when he was hit by a white, two-door Chevy Cavalier driven by Teresa Mae Figueras of Nice.

Lucas suffered minor head injuries, complaining only of a headache just minutes after the collision. No one was transported to area hospitals.

According to eyewitness accounts, Figueras came off the bridge at a high rate of speed and was having a difficult time controlling the vehicle, passing into the other lane.

“I could see her expression as she tried to get control but she just kept crossing from one side to the other, 'til she completely lost it around the turn and into the short straightaway,” said Lucas. “For just a flash of a second I thought I just might get past her but at the last possible moment her car turn sharply to the left and slammed in to the left side of my car.”

Lucas' vehicle spun around at least once and traveled approximately 200 feet backwards before slamming into a large tree stump on the side of the road.

Figueras, 51, was given a field sobriety test at the scene. A California Highway Patrol officer arrested her on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. She was booked into the Lake County Jail on $5,000 bond.



No one was hurt in a crash that occurred in the 2000 block of S. Main Street late Thursday afternoon. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


A second crash occurred in the 2000 block of S. Main Street in Lakeport after 4 p.m.

Lakeport Police Officer Jarvis Leishman reported that a 19-year-old female from Finley was driving a white 2003 Ford Focus that collided with a Ford Ranger pickup driven by a 30-year-old male Kelseyville resident.

Leishman said there were no injuries, just complaints of pain.

No arrests were made and the investigation is still under way to determine fault, he added.

Elizabeth Larson contributed to this report.

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MIDDLETOWN – This weekend the Barbara LaForge Memorial, which is helping raise funds for the county's domestic violence shelter project, will be a special guest of Langtry Estate and Vineyards' Summer Night Jazz.

The event will take place from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 21, at the winery, located at

21000 Butts Canyon Road, Middletown.

Tickets will be on sale for the second raffle in the fundraiser campaign, founded by artist Gail Salituri in memory of her friend, Barbara LaForge. All proceeds go to the Lake Family Resource Center's Freedom House campaign, which is raising funds to build a domestic violence shelter near Kelseyville.

The next drawing will be Aug. 1, Salituri reported.

Two items will be offered in the August raffle; "America's Pride,” a Thomas Kinkade print, custom-framed, measuring 14 inches by 17 inches, with a value of $350; and a custom-framed beveled mirror, 24 inches by 30 inches, valued at $650.

Bids also can be placed in a silent auction, in which Salituri will offer one of her original oils, “Overlooking Carmel, Monterey Pine,” measuring 8 inches by 10 inches. The painting, valued at $475, has an opening bid of $100.

Langtry's evening of jazz will feature local artists along with live Flamenco and hors d'oeuvres.

For reservations call 987-5303.

For more information about the LaForge Memorial fundraisers call Salituri at Inspirations Gallery, 263-4366, or visit her Web page,


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